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Michael Annisette

As T&T celebrated Labour Day last Friday in the new normal, which led to the absence of street marches, mass gatherings and long speeches at Charlie King Junction, Fyzabad—one labour union lamented the lack of funds which they claimed had negatively impacted the Industrial Court’s ability to operate at an optimal level.

In a statement, the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC) expressed concern that, “this situation is exacerbated by the fact that during the unfortunate COVID-19 pandemic lockdown situation, an unprecedented wave of industrial disputes/grievances and work-related issues, with no prior conventions, would have been reported to the Industrial Court.”

The union’s general secretary Michael Annisette said: “We have further witnessed an inundation of temporary lay off workers and in some instances, retrenchments. The inability of the Court to function at its maximum level will obviously delay the dispensation of justice as we grapple to deal with all these new cases.”

He reminded persons that the Industrial Court was one of the institutions that was set up 54 years ago, to dispense justice on all matters relating to workers and employers.

Annisette added: “Any action wittingly and unwittingly, to starve the court of its much needed funds to operate efficiently, is a virtual stab in the heart of democracy.”

“The ability of a society to dispense justice fearlessly and impartially, is one of the pillars of a democratic society.”

NATUC claimed adequate funding of the Industrial Court was absolutely necessary at this time and that it was the responsibility of the Government to ensure the court is equipped with all the necessary tools.

Annisette said: “While some may think that only economics of a country is important, we in NATUC say that the workers at the Industrial Court are an essential part of this very economy.”

“We have noted that with the COVID-19 predicament, the whole question of the use and importance of information technology and all the corelated machineries to improve the management of the court systems became even more crucial. As we all know, the world of work is experiencing transformative changes driven by technological revolution, and the Industrial Court of Trinidad and Tobago must be on par with the rest of the world as far as technological innovation and advancements are concerned.”

He said the Industrial Court is solely dependent on Government for funding in order to carry out its mandate to service workers and employers, and to ensure the industrial relations environment is managed in such a way that the practitioners of the Industrial Court including the union, employer and Government, can go to the court knowing that the court is properly funded and equipped to dispenses the services for which it was established.